Tuesday, July 22, 2014


While my blog is looking suspiciously empty again this summer, I've actually been blogging quite a bit.  For the fourth summer in a row, I'm reading classics with some of my students from New York (who are now all grown up and in college!)  I've put my notes on those books online for three books, and I'm in the middle of a fourth (the very first summer, it was just me and one student, so we used email rather than a blog; this summer, we felt ambitious and decided to do two.) 

Our current book is A Tale of Two Cities, which I read in tenth grade and just absolutely hated.  Most of what I remember is one endless packet of reading questions and vocabulary to define and use in sentences, though, and I have since come to love other Dickens, so I decided to give it another chance.  (Plus, my best friend in 10th grade--my very first internet friend, who lived a few hours away and whose teacher must have taken a different approach--told me I had it all wrong, it was a great story and so romantic and when she talked about it I felt kind of cheated.  So I've always kind of wanted to go back for it.)  If you'd like to join in, I posted notes on the first two chapters here.

The full list of readalong blogs is below; they're still up and running, so if you ever feel like revisiting an old favorite (or trying out one you never got around to) leave your impressions in the comments and we'll have a little classics club!  (Also, because I'm writing for my students--even if they are adults now--I keep things pretty PG.  So if you know a kid or teenager who wants to read one of these--or who has been assigned to--feel free to bring them along!)

Great Expectations
Little Women
Northanger Abbey
A Tale of Two Cities

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer TV and a Winner!

First of all: Congrats to Jaime Morrow, winner of my One, Two, Three Giveaway!   A giftcard for DonorsChoose.org is on its way to your inbox!

So, I don't know what normal human beings do between the time everyone in the house is home from work and bedtime, but in our house...it's mostly TV.  Both my husband and I manage to be big readers somehow, but that evening time is pretty much reserved for TV.  We're big TV watchers--and in the summer, we get a chance to catch up on shows we've missed during the regular season.

(Warning: some of these shows lean pretty hard into their adult content.  Do your homework before watching.  That said, all videos posted here are clean.)

So far this summer:

Bob's Burgers: While we try to do heavily serialized things that really benefit from binge-watching, this was the first one we tried out and I'm really glad.  I had avoided it thinking it was the kind of show that would go in for the shock factor of a South Park or the misogyny of a Family Guy and I could not have been more wrong.  Tina Belcher--the oldest kid--is a nerdy, awkward, boy-crazy, horse-loving, fan-fiction-writing middle-schooler, and the show loves her!  There is no cynicism in Bob's Burgers--the dad isn't an incompetent boob, the mother isn't a joyless nag, the kids are unmistakably kids--this is a delightfully weird family and the show celebrates that.  Linda Belcher might be the most realistically enthusiastic mom I've ever seen on TV--even when her kids aren't on board with her made-up songs or goofy schemes, she just keeps doing her in that slightly oblivious, 100% confident way that I totally recognize from many, many of the moms in my life.  And it turns out that that is a really awesome thing.  (Example: a household that shall remain nameless in which the youngest child is 23 but Santa still brings the presents and anyone who wants to argue with that just won't get any presents, understand???)

I also don't want to overlook middle child Gene--I'll let him speak for himself:

Silicon Valley:

This is a new-ish show, so it only has one season.  It's about a ragtag group of computer programmers who stumble upon the Next Big Thing and then have to prove themselves over and over as the season goes on.  I liked the show, but I loved Zach Woods in it.  (You might know him as Gave from The Office--he is even more bizarre in Silicon Valley.)

The Leftovers:

We've just gotten caught up with this one--it's only three episodes in--and so far I like it a lot more than I usually like things that are universally described as grim.  I think the music might have a lot to do with it, particularly the use of the song "Retrograde" by James Blake.  The music sets the tone in a lot of ways; that particular song is haunting and lovely but other music cues work in different ways.

Orange is the New Black:

Continues to be great; while it is still nominally the story of Piper Kernan (an affluent white woman who participated in a drug trafficking operation and went to prison for it) the other inmates quickly become just as important, if not more so.  My favorites are Taystee and Poussey.  I cannot talk enough about how great they are.  (And then I have like seventeen next-favorites.  Sophia.  Suzanne.  Sister Ingalls.  Red.  The list goes on.)

Orphan Black:

If you are not watching this: what are you even doing with your life.  Yes, it is about clones.  No, I don't care if that's not usually your thing.  Watch anyway: Tatiana Maslany plays I've-lost-track-of-how-many characters and she is a genius.  Don't believe me?  Watch her shoot a dance party with herself.

Playing House:

Another great performance from Zach Woods, but here it's the ladies who stand out.  A great, goofy show about female friendship.

Broad City:

But taking the gold in the "great goofy show about female friendship" category is Broad City.  It's unapologetically raunchy, sometimes gross, and very New York City, so it may not be for everyone (which is ok!  We're finally getting to a point in entertainment where not every ladies' comedy for ladies has to be for ALL ladies!  Hooray for that!) but I love it so hard.  I guess this was more of a spring show, but it's too good not to include.  One of my favorite sequences depicted the process for picking up a package once you've missed the delivery guy (I swear I have done this.)

What are you watching this summer?